The Scab Grab Teaches Scott Walker the Value of Unions

I confess, I went to sleep last night when Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw a pick with about 3 minutes left in the game [Update: actually, in retrospect it was a missed 4th down throw]. With the Squawks down 5, I figured there was no way they were coming back.

And there was no way they were coming back. Plus, by that point, the game had already descended into a series of plays the outcome of which were randomly determined by arbitrary calls from the refs. It just wasn’t a contest between athletes anymore; it was an art project by a bunch of inexperienced refs.

And so, when Wilson threw a Hail Mary in the last 8 seconds of the game and Packers DB M.D. Jennings caught it, the refs instead called it a Golden Tate TD. What I’m gonna call the Scab Grab. Win, Squawks.

Which has led to all sorts of people who for years have been advocating the replacement of union auto workers, cops, and teachers, to embrace union workers over greedy owners. Perhaps the most stunning of these is this guy:

(The replies to this tweet are definitely worth the laugh, btw.)

The entire country has discovered that unions do more than just inconvenience them. They ensure that experienced workers are not prevented by greedy profit-seekers from placing safe quality work over profit.

But consider: this is the same kind of fight on which the same union busters were on the other side, just weeks ago, on the Chicago Teachers strike. There, experienced teachers were–and still are–at risk of being replaced by inexperienced workers with no control over educational conditions captive to the profit-seeking motives of a bunch of capitalists. And yet on that fight, so many liberals (to say nothing of Scott Walker and Rahm Emanuel) cheered on busting the union with cheap replacements. Perhaps because we don’t get to see how inexperienced teachers struggle to manage a classroom–just as scab refs struggle to manage a game–the effects of the union-busting are applauded, not jeered.

It seems Americans are more willing to entrust their children to inexperienced union-busting replacement workers than they are their spectator sports.

Update: This great Sarah Jaffe post explains why this lockout–and the NHL lockout–matter for workers rights generally.


27 replies
  1. charlie says:

    Yes, absolutely. However the Obamas and the DNC don’t seem to want to run with it. Perhaps for good tactical reasons – the conclusions are obvious — but I’d really go for the love-child photo-mix of Rommney and Roger.

  2. Casual Observer says:

    I still think the core irony here is not the union issue but rather the whole concept of regulation. The ‘Conservative’ argument has long been that if we could only get the burdensome regulators off the field, the quality of play would be vastly improved. The exact opposite is true–good regulation means fewer bad outcomes, a more predictable, stable environment, and fewer players hurt. To me, the whole NFL thing is a referendum on regulation, less so on unions.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @Casual Observer: Yeah, your tweets this morning have been spot on on that front.

    But it’s still about both: we need real rules (for safety, for legitimacy). But also, there needs to be some limit to capitalists’ greed, and unions are one of the few limits in today’s society (admittedly, partly bc the regulators have been eliminated).

  4. Casual Observer says:

    True, agreed both important. I give priority to regulatory metaphor because I think the anti-regulatory message is much more central in their cosmology than anti-union sentiment.

  5. Peterr says:

    I have to take issue with one piece of your post, Marcy:

    It seems Americans are more willing to entrust their children to inexperienced union-busting replacement workers than they are their spectator sports.

    It should read “It seems Americans are more willing to entrust OTHER PEOPLE’S children to inexperienced union-busting replacement workers than they are their spectator sports.”

    Dave Zirin had a great piece on the connections between the NFL, NHL, and Chicago Public Schools labor situations, where he made this cogent observation:

    Yet Rahm sends his own children to the University of Chicago Lab School. As labor journalist Mike Elk reported, “The Lab School has seven full-time art teachers to serve a student population of 1,700. By contrast, only 25% of Chicago’s ‘neighborhood elementary schools’ have both a full-time art and music instructor. The Lab School has three different libraries, while 160 Chicago public elementary schools do not have a library.”

    Rahm wants les art and more standardized testing for Chicago’s children while he wants more art and less high-stakes testing for his own children. One set of rules for him and one for the rest of us.

    But why is this going on? As Dave noted back as the season was starting:

    The only way to understand why there is a lockout of NFL Referees is to understand who is doing the locking out. It’s not Roger Goodell, who for all the fawning media profiles, is little more than an exceptionally well-paid executive “flak-catcher.” It’s the people he represents. NFL teams are no longer family businesses and owners are no longer kindly patriarchs. They comprise the right-wing edge of America’s super rich. NFL owners don’t travel in the same circles as Mitt Romney. They travel in the circles of those who underwrite Mitt Romney’s campaign.

    For these 21st century Masters of the Universe, the lockout, once a near-unthinkable labor-management tactic, has become the weapon of choice when dealing with what’s left of the trade union movement. Since 2010, the number of lockouts annually in the US has doubled. A lockout gives employers the power to strip workers of their salaries,bring in temporary replacements and then simply wait until the day locked out workers eat through their meager savings and then force them back on the conditions of outlandish demands. It’s a management tactic that has hammered thousands of families from middle class security to destitution.

    The owners have decided NFL referees need to be locked out because like the scorpion who stings, that’s simply what they do.


  6. phred says:

    @Peterr: Indeed. And this is where the competence issue (EW’s point) and the regulation issue (CO’s point) meet in an unholy union in the entitled greed-soaked minds of the Achipelago Oligarchs. These sociopathic thieves sincerely do not believe in regulation of any kind, they do not believe rules apply to them, and they truly believe that they are entitled to everyone else’s money.

    It is not hard to see why they hold referees in contempt. But I can guarantee you, the popularity of the NFL would plummet without the meticulous rule enforcement by the officials on the field. Every year, the NFL tweaks the rule book to make sure they put a balanced game on the field. That’s what people want to see — a fair game, fairly competed, and fairly adjudicated.

    The fucking owners want to win. All the time. And they are happy to cheat to do it. It is how they live their miserable lives. The only reason they have managed to put such a good game on the field is due to their own competitive self-interest amongst themselves. They actually have a check and balance system that works when the owners are pitted against each other. However, when they gang up and act in collusion against other components of their system (here, the referees), the wheels come off.

    The contempt with which these greedy bastards are treating their fans is appalling. There would be no NFL without the fans.

    I don’t doubt for a second that people will continue to watch. Heck, pro-wrestling has managed to sell a ridiculous art project (nice coinage EW, thanks for that) masquerading as a sport for years. Needless to say though, it is not remotely as popular as football. Over time if the NFL doesn’t pull itself back from the brink, fans will drift away, looking for something else, until they find a competitive sport worth their time and attention.

    As I’m sure everyone here can imagine, I am livid. In no small part for having wasted my time last night. It wasn’t just the last play, the officiating throughout was abysmal. I have no idea how to describe what I witnessed last night, but it sure as hell wasn’t a fair sporting competition. The one thing I kept noticing on the faces of players and coaches were the looks of bewilderment. They were baffled by the refs conduct. So was I.

    But today, what I am most furious about is the conduct of the NFL itself. I have no intention of watching another game with these referees. What would be the point? The outcome has nothing to do with the players, coaches, game plan, or execution, it’s all about the bizarre intrusions and ineptitude of the refs. I’m just not that interested in the refs as a focal point of my sporting entertainment.

    And this has become the poster child moment of every fucking thing that the fucking Archipelago Oligarchs have broken under their miserable tenure. We have replacement referees at the SEC, the FDA, pretty much every formerly-regulatory body you can name. We have replacement referees in Congress, so staggeringly incompetent at governing that they hire their replacement referee corporate staff members to write their legislation and tell them how to vote. We have replacement referees in the media. We have replacement referees moderating our policitical debates — who knew we would so desperately miss the League of Women Voters?

    We have become a nation overrun with replacement referees. And I for one, am sick to death of it. Fuck the NFL. Fuck the Archipelago Oligarchs. I. Have. Had. It.

  7. dakine01 says:

    @bmaz: Yeah but doesn’t it seem like refs too incompetent for a lingerie league should have raised a couple of questions at NFL hdqrts? How far down in the barrel would that be?

    (But yeah, fired by any league for incompetence should have been a sign but I guess when looking for scabs, competence is not in the first hundred attributes desired)

  8. NorCalBill says:

    @phred a 2nd kudos added to Jim White’s comments re: excellent rant.

    The League of Women’s Voters is still very much alive, and could use all the help they could get ( They should certainly still moderate national debates (they still do many, many local ones) — but we wouldn’t want to bruise the egos of our Big Network News Readers, now would we? After all, they do have cocktail parties to attend with these folks, dontchaknow?

  9. jo6pac says:

    Thanks bmz for the link and everyone else for the comments and yes everyone needs to stop watching. Then maybe email some of the big ad owners on why your not watching nfl anymore. If someone like Ford pulls ads the greed heads might just listen. Oh sure what was I thinking.

  10. Bob Schacht says:

    I may have missed it on this thread, but there’s another reason for the owner’s intransigence with the referees: This is just a dress rehearsal for the next round of negotiations with the players union. The Ownership Borg wants to impress every player with the idea that Resistance Is Futile. The Borg will Prevail.

    Bob in AZ

  11. prostratedragon says:

    @Peterr: Yes, indeed. Plus, since the athletes, and even the refs, lose sympathy from many the moment their salaries are mentioned, fomenting trouble with them is a good way to get a tide of anti-union rhetoric washing through the marketplace. And don’t forget the demonstration effect on the rest of us of seeing Mr. MVP shoved into his place.

    But since the general reaction seems to be outraged impatience with the owners even in the face of deafening hypocrisy, I have a feeling that the owners might have picked a bad time to insult absolutely everyone else with a stake, or even a matchstick, in the matter.

  12. tjallen says:

    I am disturbed just as much by the player’s reaction to the poor refereeing. The “professional” athlete has responded to the poor refs by playing as dirty as possible, to try to get away with everything that they can, hoping it won’t be called. I blame the players for the disintegration of the game as much as anyone else. What did Plato say about how you can tell who is moral – by seeing what they do when they think they aren’t being watched. So what did the “professional” athletes do? Cheat cheat cheat and see if they get caught. I am very disappointed in the players. So the linemen have brought back the illegal head slap? Don’t dare complain about your concussions, and don’t blame the refs – it is the players who engage in the illegal head slaps, not the replacement refs. The players have shown they have NO respect for the game, and will play as dirty as they possibly can – well don’t whine to me about bad calls when you are trying to get every advantage, legal or not – sad meaning for the word “professional” – can’t be used for NFL players anymore – “children” or “gangstas” is more apt.

  13. P J Evans says:

    I was reading comments at sfgate on this, and a lot of people were saying they’re going to stop watching or going to games; they don’t really want to give up their favorite teams, but that’s the only way to make it work.

  14. phred says:

    @tjallen: Ummm, haven’t paid much attention to Wall Street either I take it?

    It is worth pointing out that not all players are taking advantage, just some. It is a sad fact of the world, human nature being what it is, that some people will cheat, always have, always will. It is why the rest of us (and I like to think we are in the majority) impose rules and demand enforcement of those rules. It is why some of us get so hot under the collar about the abandonment of the rule of law.

    If you pay attention, you will see most players are trying to play by the rules. Some though, try to get away with anything they can. It’s why you’re seeing more fights breaking out on the field. The non-cheaters are getting pretty fed up with the cheaters and given the lamentable refereeing, now feel they need to take matters into their own hands (or fists as the case may be).

    Strikes me as a cautionary tale for the rest of society, but what do I know?

  15. phred says:

    @tjallen: You are of course, welcome to your opinion. In this instance, I don’t share it.

    I am curious what your views are of the unregulated behavior of Wall Street denizens. Are they also “too violent” or perhaps in this instance “aggressive” to control themselves?

    Is it just football and/or Wall Street, or all of humanity we are talking here when the rules are dispensed with?

    And do you include all members of society as you do football players? Just curious.

  16. tjallen says:

    I’m not sure I stated any single opinion. In my first post, I was thinking that professional players ought not try to cheat whenever they can get away with it. I am disappointed in their alleged professionalism. I never said the rules are dispensed with – that’s the point – the rules are still there, and the professional players are breaking those rules because they think they can get away with it, and that is disappointing.

    In my second post, I was thinking that maybe, since the players in football are pushed to human limits of anger, violence and desire to win, that maybe they cannot be expected to follow the rules, and should be expected to try to cheat if they can. (and I shouldn’t be disappointed when they do). But I’m not sure I buy this explanation.

    I’ve watch football since the third superbowl and played athletics myself, so I’m not being naive. I myself always tried to keep to the rules, no matter whether I thought I’d get caught or not. But I know not everyone holds themselves to those standards; in fact many people don’t, it seems, and will cheat when they can.

    What I say goes for all humans, Wall St and in general – I expect them to follow the rules/laws even when they think they might get away with cheating. In my book, cheating is cheating, even if the ref doesn’t see it. But I realize other people think it’s only cheating when you get caught.

  17. phred says:

    @tjallen: Fair enough. I think we may be misunderstanding each other. My point is that some people cheat, most of us don’t. I think that is true for football players as well, and I interpreted your comment as painting with too broad a brush, accusing all football players of cheating. I didn’t think that was fair.

    But I’m willing to concede that I misunderstood the point that you were trying to make, that is that you don’t like the cheaters. I agree with that.

  18. tjallen says:

    @phred: phred I agree, not all the players turned to cheating. Perhaps I should say more of them started cheating than I expected to do so.

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